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I love hearing stories of reinvention. Here are some of my favorite ones,
as well as thoughts on mental health and wellness. 


If you live in Hollywood, you may occasionally notice faces on the sidewalk made out of found debris. These are the work of Caren McCaleb, a film editor, who walks her dogs there. Caren created a popular Instagram called @sidewalkface after the response she received from showing friends photos of her creations. It started with wanting to add purpose to something that was already pleasurable, walking her dogs. She tasked herself with looking for faces on the sidewalk as she walked. There might be a smashed grapefruit with promise that with some berries and shards of flowers suddenly becomes woman with a slight smile but mournful eyes. The faces always convey some emotion that speaks to the viewer. Caren creates these faces very quickly, like an alchemist, transforming trash into something that brings joy. Like the artist Keith Haring, Caren believes art is for everyone. She works with speed (after all, the dogs are pulling at her) and leaves a little something behind her that will spark joy. Caren likes working with constraints, like using only what is right there and not laboring over them but because she creates rules, she can break them as well. Sometimes, if one is really good, she’ll put a little more into it. The main thing is that they either happen or they don’t, and she is fine with that. She feels the same way about @sidewalkface, not letting it weigh her down if she’s not posting.  It’s all about the process, not the end result.

I love so many things about this project.  The idea of taking what is tossed on the ground and making art out of it, adding purpose to pleasure, self-assigning creativity, and most of all the letting go.  Letting go. It sounds so easy but so many of us struggle with this concept, becoming stuck, depressed or anxious.

What would our lives look like if we freed ourselves from expectations. To accept where we are right now in this moment and that who and what we are is “good enough”. Good enough for now. Not forever, just for now. You don’t have to be there forever, just long enough ground yourself and find your inner strength and get in tune with yourself. This is how you build strength to move forward. Think of a toddler that is running before they can walk, propelling themself into a room. They are moving but they have no idea where they'll end up. With stability and centering they may move slower, but they'll get to where you want to be. You can too.

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As we head into the holidays, many of us will gather with family, some of us with joy and others with a knot in our stomachs, anticipating trouble ahead. Dysfunctional family dynamics are tricky and it's hard for even the most competent, therapized person in the world not to end up fighting with a sibling over Dad's car keys. These patterns are formed so early and are so ingrained, it's hard to not take the bait. When you notice your brother slipping into drunk uncle mode and you feel that tightening in your chest, listen to your body. Slip into the bathroom, take some long deep breathes and splash cold water on your face. This will reset your central nervous system and help you to relocate your adult self. Then, when you feel grounded again, go back out there.

Rinse and repear if necessary.

Dysfunctional family dynamics
Dysfunctional family dynamics

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At a point in my life where I was feeling very stuck, a friend suggested I join her pottery class. That class became a turning point for me. It began to shift my energy to a place where I was able to move forward in my life. It led to me getting my master’s in clinical psychology and becoming a therapist. In the pottery studio, I found a community that supported and encouraged me, where I could laugh and create. It gave me badly needed self-esteem, when mine was low. It showed me how creativity and mental health are linked by teaching me to let go of expectations, and be present to what was in front of me and itt taught me to find the beauty in the imperfect. Because of this experience I often suggest to creatives who are feeling blocked to try working on a project in another medium, to see if approaching their creative process from a new angle will help open something up and get things moving again.

In my first class, seated at a long table of people working on hand building, I made a pinch pot. Every step of the way other people were helping me, telling me how well I was doing, that I was a natural, giving me pointers, and my pinch pot was looking pretty good. I was happy. When it finally came out of the kiln, I was so excited to see my pretty pale lavender pot. Instead, this crooked, shrunken, sickly pale gray thing came out. I was devastated. Someone walking past saw my face and shrugged “it’s only clay, make another one”. I soon learned that many things go wrong in the process of making pottery, things break or crack, colors shift. To be a potter means learning to love the process of making pottery and letting go of your expectations for how it turns out. The woman who said this to me had spent six months working on a piece, a very detailed Chinese dragon, only to have another piece fall on it in the final kiln and break it. It reminded me of Buddhist monks who make intricate drawings in the sand only to erase them afterwards.

Throwing is a very meditative process. You really need to feel the clay and breathe with it. It’s very grounding because you genuinely have the earth in your hands. To center the clay and pull it up, you must focus solely on it, or it will become wobbly and collapse. If you are having an absentminded kind of a day, it will show up in the clay. Once on a day like that, I was working on a piece when it started to collapse. I stopped my wheel, thinking it was ruined and several women started saying “Don’t stop, you can save it, Wabi Sabi!” Wabi Sabi is a Japanese term for finding the beauty in the imperfect, and it became a mantra of the studio. I was able to save it and it became one of my favorite beautiful mistakes.

Over time, these lessons began to spill over into my life. When things didn’t go as planned, I could more easily pivot or shrug it off. I started looking for the beauty or the lesson in what happened. I became more present to what I was feeling and began to stop measuring myself against other people, and I stopped feeling that I ‘should’ be at a certain place in my life. I began to realize what I wanted and needed in my life, and slowly, I was able to build it.

I will be forever grateful to my friend who suggested the class and I treasure my time in the studio, where I feel the love, support, and laughter of my community there. I still feel stuck occasionally, but then I take it into the studio and assign myself to make something I haven’t ever done before, unafraid of failure, because after all, ‘it’s only clay’.

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